Surrey council leader claims government does not understand ‘enormous’ pressure being put on local authorities

Western Morning NewsSTRUGGLING: Despite receiving an increase in spending power from central government, Surrey County Council leader David Hodge said it wasn’t enough in the long term

By Dorking Advertiser  |  Posted: January 07, 2015

By Michael Davies

  • WARNING: Surrey County Council leader David Hodge says the authority is facing “enormous” pressure

  •  THE Government needs to do more to recognise the financial strain being put on councils following the release of the latest funding settlement.

That is the warning from Surrey County Council leader David Hodge, who said councils – including his own – were facing “enormous” pressure, despite Surrey receiving more financial assistance for the next year.

On average local authorities had their financial assistance cut by 1.8 per cent.

But the Conservative-run Surrey council has seen its spending power for 2015-16 rise by 3.1 per cent, an increase of £27,161,000.

The increase means the council has £897,032,000 in revenue spending power, compared to £869,871,000 in 2014-15.

This amounts to £1,863.20 per household – an increase of £56.42.

Mr Hodge¸ who is also chairman of the County Councils Network, said the increase would allow the council to continue to deliver services in the short term.

Speaking last Thursday, the day of the announcement, he said: “Today’s funding settlement means we can just about keep essential services going in the short term, but in the longer term government needs to recognise the enormous pressure we’re facing. Surrey taxpayers contribute £6 billion in income tax every year to the national exchequer, yet Government is short-changing us to the tune of more than £215million to provide the 13,000 school places the county needs over the next five years.

“I cannot sanction a situation where we have to borrow money to bridge this gap and leave the people of Surrey with hundreds of millions of pounds of debt for decades to come.

“The people of Surrey put more than enough into national coffers – they need to get a fair amount back.”

The council leader has also said that his authority’s school expansion plans would be scrapped unless the Government provided more money.

Local Government Minister Kris Hopkins said: “Like all parts of government, councils need to prioritise spending so it gets to those that need it most.

“Councils are rising to the challenge. Every council issued a balanced budget for 2014 to 2015.

“The majority of residents remain satisfied with the way their council runs things. It bears testament to the great skill that authorities have shown in prioritising and promoting efficiencies.”

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